The #1 reason your song isn’t exciting enough

You could be on the verge of a truly great musical idea. You can feel it coming, you know it’s going to rock…

And then, it comes out. And nothing happens. You’ve got a great 10 seconds of music, but after looping it for a few minutes you get that sinking feeling… you start to feel as if your exciting idea is actually not all that exciting. You might even have a few different sections taking turns in the song, but somehow the excitement isn’t there.

You’re just not feeling it. It doesn’t move. You’re missing momentum.

Momentum is a sense of moving forward. Think of it as using development (directed change and variation) with a deliberate rate of change. It is the rate of change that produces momentum.

It is a common mistake to make music where the rate of change is too slow. This is often where sections are too long – even if the song has a good contour, and even if there’s a good sense of development. When the sections are too long, the listener gets bored and stops anticipating the next change. In other words, you lose momentum. This happens regardless of how ‘exciting’ rhythms or loops are – a minute of the same bar over and over again has no momentum.

At the other extreme, a rate of change that’s too fast will confuse and disorient the listener. Instead of excitement, you’ll end up with randomness. If the listener cannot understand the music, there’s no anticipation and no momentum.

The appropriate rate of change is a matter of judgement – it depends on the creative direction, the musical material, and the expectations of the listener. Additionally, different sections of a song will require different rates of change – depending on the contour of the song. Faster rates of change will add excitement and momentum, slower rates of change will provide relief.

-Kim.

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    • shelby
    • September 20th, 2010

    This is totally true. I’ll expand on it by saying that, when you are working on a track you need to have momentum in your work flow. Meaning you need to keep moing forward in your progress in the song. If you’ve spent too much time listening to the same loop over and over again, you will likely get that “sinking feeling” as stated. At which point moving forward might be so forced and laboring that the results will sound forced.

    I say its best to get as far as you can before the sinking feeling sets in. You can always edit.

  1. That’s absolutely true Shelby. It’s important not to get bogged down in the details and lose sight of the overall objective. Unfortunately, this is more likely for inexperienced engineers/composers because they’re still learning the tools and techniques. They’ll either waste a lot of time trying the wrong technique, or they’ll get lost exploring sounds (and learning their tools in the process). This is unfortunate because it’s the inexperienced engineers and composers who are also most likely to be discouraged by their apparent lack of progress and productivity.

    -Kim.

    • Marc Lapointe
    • September 21st, 2010

    What I enjoy most of your blog is the topics. The idea of music goes beyond simply laying down tracks. I left this article with insight I have never thought of (mind you I am a novice Hobbyist). In any event, I think that after you listen to the artist’s message, read the lyrics and envision the song/story flow.

    Excellent article as usual and thanks for the insight that most forget….

  2. Thanks Marc. Some of my posts address specific aspects of composition, production or engineering… but some of my posts are provocative – designed to provoke thought and reflection. I’m glad to hear you get some insight from reading this blog! It’s really encouraging to hear I’m doing something right!

    -Kim.

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